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Find out what’s new on Canadian stages from Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck in the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.


Hello and welcome to our new theatre newsletter: Nestruck on Theatre.

Every Tuesday, I’ll be providing a peek behind the scenes of my world as the theatre critic here at The Globe and Mail.

I’ll let you know what we’re planning to review, what we have recently reviewed and highlight some other shows I’ve got my eyes on across Canada. This is a work in progress, so I’d love to get your feedback and know what you’d like to see here. Drop me a line at knestruck@globeandmail.com.

This week, a riveting production that landed on my top-10 list in 2018 reopens in Toronto at Tarragon Theatre: Human Cargo’s The Runner. Stratford/Shaw Festival veteran Gord Rand is sensational as a volunteer paramedic in Israel in this play by Christopher Morris that is staged by Daniel Brooks on a long and narrow treadmill. (Yes, Rand performs the solo show while in almost constant motion.)

Gord Rand in Human Cargo's The Runner.Graham Isador/Graham Isador

Here’s my original four-star review – and, if you can’t catch it in Toronto before March 29, there will be plenty of opportunities to see it elsewhere coming up. It’s at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, Ont., in September and will be at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg in a little over a year – and Morris tells me that dates will soon be announced at Green Light Arts in Kitchener, Ont.; and the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa. There will also be a run of The Runner in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August – and a very prestigious European theatre company is eyeing it for its 2020-21 season, too.

This week, I will be running off to two shows in Toronto that I haven’t seen yet: Eclipse Theatre Company’s production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George at the Old Jam Factory (only on from March 3 to 8); and Necessary Angel’s production of The Events, which I wrote about last week. My reviews will be online later this week.

I haven’t yet reviewed a show from Eclipse – which was co-founded by the Canadian Broadway star Chilina Kennedy – but I did see their first two productions in 2019: A similarly short run of Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider-Woman at the Don Jail; and a longer run of Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet (co-producer Crow’s Theatre). The company made a strong first (and second) impression and seems like an important new player in Toronto’s growing not-for-profit musical-theatre sector; I’m eager to write about director Evan Tsitsias’s new “site-responsive” production of this Sondheim classic, starring Evan Buliung (Fun Home, Dear Evan Hansen) as the artist Georges Seurat.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia this week, Vancouver’s Arts Club opens The Wedding Party – a madcap quick-change comedy by Kristen Thomson (I, Claudia) that was a two-time hit for Crow’s Theatre in 2017 (reviewed here) and 2018.

The cast of Ann Hodges’s new production, which runs to March 22, includes the actress Jasmine Chen – who, it was just announced on Monday, has been appointed artistic and community producer at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond, B.C. She will work alongside Barbara Tomasic, who has been appointed director of artistic programs.

If you’re not sure what those job titles mean, you’re not alone. The Gateway used to have an artistic director – I interviewed their last one, Jovanni Sy, back in 2014 – but they’re now one of a number of theatres reconsidering their leadership structure. (This seems like a good opportunity to link to an interesting recent column by the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones on this trend in American theatre, in which he notes that “shared artistic directorships often have not worked – most famously at the Stratford Festival in Canada”.)

A major opening this week in Montreal is Mob, a new English version of Quebec playwright Catherine-Anne Toupin’s hit psychological thriller, which is at the Centaur Theatre until March 29. I’ll be flying in to see it later this month, but the original French version, known as La Meute, sold out three runs at Théâtre La Licorne. It will be interesting to see if anglophone audiences are equally thrilled and chilled by it.

Before I end, I just want to highlight one more Canadian show that is opening this week in another country: Daughter, which runs from March 3 to 28 at the Battersea Arts Centre in London. Adam Lazarus’s solo show about toxic masculinity caused a stir in its debut at Toronto’s Theatre Centre (which is touring it) – and divided the critics in The Globe and Mail. It’s already making waves overseas.

Find out what’s new on Canadian stages from Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck in the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.